SCHOTT solutions no. 1/2010 > Interview

Photo: SCHOTT/A. Sell

Turning Dreams into Reality

Christine Lüdeke from ludekedesign and Armin Plichta, General Manager of Aviation and Automotive at SCHOTT, shed light on how designers and technology experts come up with new solutions for aircraft cabins.

Thilo Horvatitsch

solutions: Mrs. Lüdeke, you have been designing aircraft cabins for 20 years. How has the role of interior design changed?

Lüdeke: In the past, the airlines used to rely mainly on state-of-the-art technology as a way of standing out from the competition. Today, they rely on design. Here, topics like branding, but also weight reduction and environmental friendliness, are quite exciting. Design can lead to new solutions that use other materials and shapes. It meets the increased demands of passengers – keyword ”IKEA generation”. Today, design is just as much a part of air travel as catering.

Plichta: This is documented by annual spending of 20 billion U.S. dollars each year on aircraft interiors.

solutions: Are designers allowed to experiment to the same extent?

Lüdeke: We try to achieve a balance between the demands of our customers and our own ideas. Here, the execution phase during which we work together with the airline is crucial. This is often when we come up with solutions one never would have dreamed of. The objective is always to outperform the potentials of each individual while working as a team.

solutions: Does this also apply to how you work with SCHOTT?

Lüdeke: Yes. SCHOTT is very sensitive when it comes to design, while we are becoming more receptive for technology. We speak the same language and do not just exchange know-how. This allows us to come up with new design ideas rather quickly that are within the realms of what is technologically feasible. For me, this means helping to turn dreams into reality.

Plichta: This is exactly what we are trying to do. We familiarize ourselves with the demands of the market and then try to build the technology in a way that allows for better ­design to be realized. The result is technology packaged by design. And we don’t only offer solutions upon request, but also on a proactive basis.

solutions: Can you give us an example?

Plichta: ludekedesign and SCHOTT have developed a new reading light that is designed to be built into the backs of seats. For the economy class, this is truly an innovation that posed challenges for us, for instance integration of the foldable LED light despite low installation depth or minimizing the development of heat despite the high light output.

solutions: Have any airlines shown an interest in it?

Plichta: Yes. By the way, thanks to our ­application approach, we are perceived as being a provider of solutions, not just technical equipment. Airlines invite us to make recommendations on cabin interiors or special lighting effects. Here, our working relationship with design firms really helps us because most airlines do not employ their own designers.

solutions: What can we expect to see in the future?

Lüdeke: The further development of economy class seats is very exciting. I would also enjoy working on the difficult task of how to open up the galley to passengers – based on the model of show cooking. The creation of communicative spaces inside an airplane has only just begun.

Ludekedesign and SCHOTT